dir. john ford
A road trip movie pulled by horse and carriage, Stagecoach is the Western that people who don’t like Westerns should give a chance. While it maintains all the classic elements of the genre (gunslingers, beerslingers, and those pesky Apaches), it doesn’t drag like the cliche goes. It’s witty, the characters are all distinct and charming in their own ways, and John Wayne slides in and steals the show in his breakout role.
The story follows a handful of people riding in a stagecoach from Arizona to New Mexico–some by choice, others not so much. The drunken doctor, the shady banker, the outed prostitute–they all have their reasons, and they all pile in to be dragged through Apache territory to get to the other side. They’re met by Ringo (Wayne), hellbent on finding the man who killed his brother.
“I just took this job ten years ago so I could make enough money to marry my Mexican girl Julietta. I’ve been workin’ hard at it ever since…My wife’s got more relatives than anyone you ever did see. I bet I’m feedin’ half the state of Chihuahua.”
People often don’t think of Westerns as being particularly funny, and I don’t pretend to call myself an expert on them (I may have seen three in my life), this one is pretty sharp. The dialogue is witty (particularly between driver Buck and shotgun Curley), and the atmosphere of “we’ve been in this car for too long” is present throughout. On top of all that, John Wayne looks good as heck.
Guys, it’s good. Give it a chance.
Available to stream in high definition via Hulu Plus.
Criterion Spine #516.